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Phoenix Suns: Charles Barkley, Steve Nash and Kevin Johnson as Suns' All-Time 'Big Three'

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Phoenix Suns organization spans 46 seasons, with 29 of those seasons resulting in a playoff appearance.

Unfortunately, no NBA championships have come to the valley, but the Suns have had some championship-caliber talent come through, resulting in a franchise record of 2012-1630 (.552).

Who would comprise the Suns' all-time "Big Three?"


Boy, did the Suns steal Johnson from the Cleveland Cavaliers. He came over in a trade back in February of 1988 with Tyrone Corbin, Mark West, a first-round pick (Dan Majerle) and two second-round picks (Dean Garrett, Greg Grant) for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a first-round pick (Randolph Keys).

In Johnson's first full season with the Suns (1988-89), he averaged 20.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 12.2 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 88.2 percent from the free-throw line. His 991 assists in that season are still the franchise record, with second place being 898 by Steve Nash.

Johnson would shine in the playoffs, too. He averaged 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 12.3 assists and 1.6 steals in 1988-89 and his career averages of 19.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 1.3 steals isn't bad.

Johnson played in a tough era, which is why he only made three All-Star games and his only major award was the 1988-89 Most Improved Player. In any other era, Johnson would have gotten the credit he deserved.


Barkley is one of the most recognizable people in Phoenix and for good reason. Even though he played just four seasons in Phoenix, he left a mark on the franchise as a charismatic, terrific offensive talent and was the leader of the 1993 NBA Finals team that got their hearts broken by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Barkley averaged 23.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals for the Suns, while winning the 1993 Most Valuable Player award, making the All-Star and the All-NBA team all four years.

His MVP season also included that Finals run, in which Barkley averaged 26.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks over the 24-game playoff run. His 1993-94 playoff stats were better, but the Suns were bounced after 10 games.

Barkley is still the career leader in win shares per-48 minutes (.210), total rebound percentage (18.0) and efficiency rating (24.7). Love him or hate him, he gave the Suns a great four seasons.


The two-time back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player not only made the Suns more fun to watch, but he also turned them into one of the most successful regular season teams of the 2000s. He was loved because people could relate to him and, to be frank, he made mediocre players look like All-Stars.

Nash is plastered all over the Suns' career leaders lists. He's the all-time leader in 3-pointers, assists, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, assist percentage, offensive rating and offensive win shares. He averaged 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 10.9 assists with a crazy shooting line of .510/.437/.912 in his second run (2004-05 to 2011-12) with the Suns.

Despite Nash's greatness and his ability to make others better (see: Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Raja Bell), he wasn't able to close the deal in the playoffs. He did his part and was a true warrior, including a memorable bout with a ghastly bloody nose that couldn't keep him off the court.

Nash was a professional the whole way, even when Amar'e Stoudemire was stealing the spotlight. Nash never complained about Robert Sarver selling off first-round draft picks. Nash held on until the end, doing a legendary job of carrying a team led by Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat to a .500 record.

Apologies to Tom Chambers, who still holds the single-season best of 27.2 points per game, in 1989-90. Further apologies to Connie Hawkins, who is known and beloved in the desert but played just over four seasons for the Suns. Last apologies to Alvan Adams, the career leader in games, minutes played, rebounds and steals.

Michael Dunlap covers the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is an NBA credentialed writer who is also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of

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